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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 25 January, 2020

'Ireland gave Georgia a template,' says Gatland after Aviva arm wrestle

The Welsh head coach noted that his men had not been tested out wide, but concedes the gameplan from the number one team in the world is effective.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

WALES HEAD COACH Warren Gatland wouldn’t be drawn on whether Ireland’s direct, abrasive style would be sustainable enough to make their World Cup campaign a success, though the Lions boss admits it is a difficult proposition to overcome.

Ireland rode out a dominant first-half performance from the Welsh to finish strong, come from behind and complete their warm-up schedule with a 19-10 win a fortnight out from a Pool A clash with Scotland in Yokohama.

Against the Grand Slam winners, Ireland kept a narrow shape in attack and set out to turn the Welsh defensive line with Johnny Sexton’s array of tactical kicking before creating line breaks from Bundee Aki and Josh van der Flier.

As visitors flagged in the second half, Ireland went for the jugular, tightening up further to make inroads closer to the ruck before the match-sealing tries ultimately came from the big hitters in the tight five – Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan.

“Ireland went back to what they’re traditionally good at,” Gatland said of the second half after Ireland completed the Test with 67% territory and 63% possession.

“85% of that second half was just: off nine, off nine, off nine… and Bundee Aki was effective on the gainline.

When they play a certain way you have to be collision dominant in that area and discipline has to be good as well. Two areas of the game that cost us.”

The outgoing coach added that their first World Cup opponents could follow the example set by Schmidt’s side:

“We’ve tried to go out there and be positive in how we play. Generally pretty pleased (with how Wales performed). When Ireland get into that… that sort of game. Ireland probably gave Georgia a template for how to play against us.

“They were effective, particularly in the second half, and basically choked us.”

With Ireland now going to the World Cup as the world’s number one-ranked team, they are clearly in the better position than any of their predecessors to break the glass ceiling of the last eight and make it to the semi-final stage.

Having knocked Ireland out in a Wellington quarter-final clash in 2011 – before a narrow semi-final defeat with 14 men – Gatland was asked how sustainable Ireland’s gameplan could be over the course of a tournament.

ross-moriarty-and-tomas-francis-with-bundee-aki-jonathan-sexton-and-james-ryan James Ryan watches over a colission between Tomas Francis, Ross Moriarty, Johnny Sexton and Bundee Aki Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s been effective for them,” he said, opting to nibble all around the bait rather than swallow it whole.

“In the past, when we’ve had success against Ireland we’ve come in really hard against one-off runners,  stop them in those collisions and show good discipline so they don’t get opportunities.

“Because they’ll just play phase after phase until they get a penalty chance and kick the ball down the field and they try and squeeze you in the 22.

“When we have won games against Ireland, when we have been effective, is when our discipline’s been good and we’ve stopped the collision dominance off nine.

“They’re very good at that area, but they didn’t play any expansive rugby at all that troubled us out wide.”

A notable exception to that view is the first-half try scored by Rob Kearney, though that score came via the launchpad of a line-out deep in Wales’ 22.

Attacking from further out in the first-half Ireland struggled to plot a safe route around Wales as the visitors’ defensive line came up fast and to fill the passing lanes with red shirts.

“It was not necessarily pretty to watch, but it was nice to get that result,” said Schmidt a while after Gatland had departed.

A few ugly wins over the next seven weeks would be very warmly received indeed.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell  / reports from Aviva Stadium

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